The Palestinian Authority is threatening not to pay civil servants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next month as it attempts to pressure Israel to abandon its plans to annex settlements and the Jordan Valley, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.
The report, quoting an unnamed senior Palestinian official, said that some 200,000 workers in the West Bank and 60,000 in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip would not receive their salaries.
The civil service payments are a key component of the impoverished Palestinian economy which has rampant unemployment, and withholding salaries would likely foment massive unrest.
“Let the new (Israeli) defense minister pay instead of us,” the official told Kan, referring to Benny Gantz.
Under the coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White, the premier can begin moving forward on July 1 with annexing West Bank territories set aside for Israel under the Trump peace plan.
The Palestinian Authority announced last month that it was cutting ties with Israel, ending security coordination and refusing to accept tax transfers from Israel to protest the annexation plans.
“We stand before one of the most trying times for our cause. Our greatest challenge right now is to prevent Israeli annexation of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told the Palestinian Local Councils Union on Wednesday.
In a speech to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said the PA would continue to seek to pressure Israel into withdrawing its planned annexation of the West Bank. Al-Maliki said that annexation “must be buried in the cradle.”
“We must form a united front front to vigorously confront Israeli aggression, possible political, legal, diplomatic, and economic measures, including action in the UN Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council,” al-Maliki said.
Al-Maliki called for Israel to be politically and legally sanctioned over what he deemed its “illegal” plans. He said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had expressed many times his willingness to engage in a “meaningful and credible peace process” based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
Palestinian and European officials have indicated some countries could retaliate for unilateral Israeli annexation by recognizing a Palestinian state and sanctioning Israel, Hebrew media outlets reported.
Quoting unnamed Palestinian officials, Kan TV news reported that several European countries, among them Ireland, have said they will recognize a Palestinian state if Israel extends sovereignty over areas designated for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
Also Wednesday, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank mark a “serious escalation” that threatens the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Following a virtual meeting of OIC foreign ministers, the pan-Islamic body said it “warns against the dangerous intention of Israel.”
The annexation threat amounts to “an official declaration by Israel of revocation of all its signed agreements” and “a serious escalation of its colonial policies and measures,” the OIC said in a statement.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reiterated the move would represent a “dangerous escalation” that threatens the chances of resuming the peace process.
The Palestinians, who have rejected Trump’s plan out of hand, on Tuesday said they had presented a counter-proposal for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized” to the Quartet, made up of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.
Agencies contributed to this report.